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December 14-20, 2005

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Super Furry Holidays

What to get the thoroughly pampered pet in your life


By Patricia Lynn Henley

By now, everyone's making a list and checking it twice, hoping to find a special present for all their loved ones—even those of the furry, feathered or scaled varieties. In many households, pets are as much a part of the family as the human members, and it's only natural to want to include them in the holiday gift-giving, to brighten their lives with a special holiday treat.

Fortunately, it's not necessary to go far afield to find just the right present, because a number of North Bay folks produce an amazing array of pet products. Even for those disbelievers who think it's possible to overdo our afftection for the creatures in our midst, it's fascinating to explore the range and originality of local items made just for pets.

Belly up to the Bar

Now don't get upset—no one's advocating serving alcohol to animals of any age. However, there are a number of alcohol-related pet items that are both healthy and fun. For more than seven years, Pat Giusto of Napa Valley Dog Biscuits has been creating two varieties of dog treats, Cab*Bone*Net, a beef-flavored biscuit made with Cabernet Sauvignon wine, and Char*Dog*Nay, with chicken and Chardonnay wine. Giusto hand-cuts them into the shape of grape clusters and wine bottles, then cooks them with a low-fat milk glaze. "Of course, the alcohol bakes out," she assures.

Giusto came up with the idea for her "yuppie puppy" treats while driving around the Napa Valley. She experimented with recipes and shapes until she felt everything was perfect, then began selling them wholesale. They're available at a number of retail outlets, including the Sebastiani Winery gift room in Sonoma, Best Friends of Napa Valley Pet Boutique in Yountville, Fideaux in St. Helena, and both Napa Valley Traditions and the Napa River Inn in Napa. An 8-ounce bag holds between 36 to 40 cookies, and sells for between $7.50 and $8.50.

Pour out the goodies for either your cat or your dog with wine-bottle pet treats from the nonprofit Pets Lifeline Animal Shelter (707.996.4577, www.petslifeline.org) in the Sonoma Valley. Give Fluffy or Spot an authentic Sonoma Valley wine bottle, complete with sealed cork, but filled instead with pet treats. The feline bottle comes with assorted yummy shapes; the dog version features bone-style nibbles. Pick up a bottle for $9, or a case for $108.

If wine isn't your canine's beverage of choice, try Dog Star Brewing Company's Happy Tail Ale, a nonalcoholic, noncarbonated beer for dogs that's made with malted barley and filtered water, as well as glucosamine, vitamin E and natural beef flavor. Company owners Jamie and Kevin Miller came up with the idea while camping with their dog, Kodiak. It seems Kodi has a natural affinity for beer, and kept knocking over any bottle he found, eager to lap up the liquid.

The Millers wanted to give Kodi a special gift for his second birthday, and ended up developing their canine ale. It's stocked at more than 20 Northern California retail outlets (there's a list online at www.beerfordogs.com). Although prices can vary, it sells on the Napa Valley Traditions website (www.napatraditions.com) for $2 a bottle or $8.75 a six-pack.

Tempting Tidbits

For the dog who has everything, Roll Over Red Rover (415.461.ROLL, www.rolloverredrover.com), makers of "super natural" dog biscuits, offer an interesting array of handcrafted treats in a multitude of clever packages. Choose from the shoe-shaped "Manolo Barknik," "Chanel Dog" and "Puppy Vuitton" to "Martini Time" with a glass and olives, and "Best in Show," featuring a large winner's cup, amid a variety of smaller canine shapes. When ordering online, the cost is $10 for a 3.5-ounce bag, $5 for 1.5-ounce mini-bags. These biscuits are also available at Alpha Dog in Mill Valley (6 Miller Ave., Mill Valley, 415.389.6500).

Mary Ellen Oertel and Ray Masnack of Sonoma are both professional chefs who have gone to the dogs. When they adopted a puppy, they wanted to give her fresh, healthy food. Among other recipes, Oertel developed several flavors of dog biscuits, now marketed as Ma Snax Superior Treats (www.masnax.com). For the holidays, canine caretakers can preorder, among other items, a hand-decorated gingerbread doghouse for $65, a four-flavor holiday gift tin treat collection for $10, cheddar-parsley crackers for $6.50 or a bake-at-home cheddar-peanut biscuit kit for $7.50. Ma Snax products are sold by more than 30 Northern California retailers.

And it's easy to start drooling over the treats in the refrigerated, glass-fronted pastry display at Three Dog Bakery in Sonoma (526 Broadway, Sonoma, 707.933.9780), but they're all geared for Rover's tastes. This franchise operation is one of more than 30 stores worldwide; the packaged treats are made in the corporate kitchen, but each day a local pastry chef works onsite in Sonoma to whip up such delicacies as Basset Bone, Beastro Biscotti, Pupcakes, Labrador Loaf, Pet-It Fours, Pup Tarts and more. Holiday-themed goodies include Yule Drool Logs, personalized stocking cookies and tree cakes. Prices vary; a pupcake is $1 while a bone-shaped large cake is $18. The store also hosts yappy birthday parties.

For banana biscotti and other locally crafted doggie delicacies, check out My Dog Bakery and Boutique in Santa Rosa (208 Davis St., Santa Rosa, 707.578.7297). Also on sale here are Waggin' Tails Liver Treats, which are made in Windsor.

For canine cookie connoisseurs, the place to go is Vineyard Dog in Napa (1136 Main St., Napa, 707.226.5300, www.vineyarddog.com). A Sonoma-based chef supplies this store with varieties such as chicken and sunflower-seed cookies, sweet potato and ginger, or green apple and oatmeal, all made with completely organic ingredients including cage-free Petaluma eggs.

Something/Anything

Housed in a 50,000-square-foot warehouse in downtown Napa, Lixit Corp. (707.252.1622, www.lixit.com) is an employee-owned business that is the largest small-animal watering-device manufacturer in the world. Founded in 1968, the company also makes a range of feeding and animal-care accessories, from pet picnic pails, which provide fresh food and chilled water on the go, to the Step 'N' Dine pedal-operated covered dish that keeps kitty's food safe from most canines. Among the less ordinary items, there's also a hamster toilet, a reptile mist sprayer for moisturizing and dispensing water-soluble medications, a guinea pig igloo, ferret water bottles, the use-anywhere thirsty-dog portable water bottle, reptile waterers and more. The company markets its products wholesale, under its own label and about 30 others.

Also selling wholesale is Cotati-based Animal Lovers, which began in 1982 as a family-owned pet store. All items are produced from natural elements or ingredients. Choose from a wide range of ladders, chew rings and swings for our feathered friends or various healthy chew items for rabbits, hamsters, rats, mice, gerbils and chinchillas. There's also dietary skin and coat conditioners designed specifically for ferrets, dogs or cats, as well as special supplements for arthritic elderly animals.

Creatures Great and Small

Not every animal has a warm, loving home for the holidays; this is a perfect time to offer support to shelter animals. Pets Lifeline (19686 Eighth St. E., Sonoma, 707.996.4577) has "Secret Santa" trees in about 10 locations throughout the Sonoma Valley. Each tree is filled with stocking ornaments listing the name of a shelter animal and its Christmas wish. People have already starting picking ornaments, says shelter manager Susan Simons. For tree locations or donation details, call Pets Lifeline.

The Marin Humane Society (171 Bel Marin Keys Blvd., Novato, 415.506.6288) is just wrapping up its drive to fill gift bags for pets of people in need, but will still accept financial assistance. Plus, the society's onsite pet store hosts a 50 percent off sale Dec. 20-25; all proceeds benefit the Marin Humane Society.

Perhaps the best gift for a shelter animal is a home. Adoption outposts will be held on Wednesday, Dec. 14, from 11:30am to 1:30pm at Auto Desk in San Rafael, and on Saturday, Dec. 17, Wednesday, Dec. 21, Saturday, Dec. 24 and Wednesday, Dec. 28, at Corte Madera Town Center from noon to 3pm.

The Humane Society of Sonoma County is accepting donations to its 2005 Holiday Wish Fund for Animals, to provide the resources needed to help animals all year round. Contributions can be sent to PO Box 1296, Santa Rosa, CA 95482, or call 707.542.0882, ext. 212.

Holiday, general or memorial gifts are also welcome at the Napa Humane Society. Contact them either via post, PO Box 695, Napa, CA 94559; e-mail, info@napahumane.org; or call 707.255.8118.

'Tis the season to love all creatures great and small. Happy holidays to everyone and everything.


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